A Good Cauz: Former Jayhawk Soccer Player Enjoys Giving Back

Aug. 2, 2010

It’s been said that heart is the most important intangible for an athlete to possess on the soccer field.

No one will ever question the size of former KU soccer standout Nicole (Cauzillo) Mahobian’s heart. Since her playing days with the Jayhawks (2004-07), the former all-conference performer has made giving back to people her life’s mission.

Nicole, or “Cauz” to her Kansas teammates, has been on sports ministry trips to different countries each of the past three years, going to Chile this past May, as well as Ethiopia and Brazil while traveling with the Charlotte Lady Eagles – a club team that uses soccer as a way to spread the message of Jesus to foreign countries.

“It feels really natural for me to serve God through a soccer ball,” Mahobian said. “(These ministry trips) give me an opportunity to be a role model for someone else, and hopefully bring joy into their lives.”

During the expeditions to foreign countries the Lady Eagles have the goal to “train and equip Christian athletes to intentionally use the game of soccer as a platform for sharing their personal faith in Jesus Christ,” according to the team’s web site. The athletesaccomplish this mission by hosting free soccer clinics for youth players – generally elementary to high school age – in impoverished areas of the country. The Lady Eagles also play exhibition matches against different club and professional teams from the area.

Following the games and clinics, the team gives testimonials and tells stories about their own life experiences, which have helped shape their spiritual beliefs.

“For me, (soccer) is the simplest way to share Jesus,” Mahobian said. “We come into these people’s lives for short periods of time, sometimes only two weeks, but my faith makes me certain that when I leave, the seed my team planted will be watered and continue to grow through God. We use soccer to teach. We all want to be excellent in soccer, but also in our faith, in education and with our families.”

While seeing the sights in foreign countries and playing against some of the best players in those countries is exciting, Mahobian says her favorite part is working with the kids. After training sessions, the youth players usually invite the Lady Eagles back to their schools or churches for a meal and to get some more one-on-one interaction with their American friends.

According to Mahobian, one of the biggest challenges is communication between the team and the players they work with. Most of the kids that attend the clinics don’t speak English, especially in the African nations.

However, Mahobian says that soccer is a language that knows no barriers.

“It’s cute, most of the time in the beginning, the kids assume you know their native language and so they’ll say something to you, and then when you don’t understand, they’ll say it slower and louder,” she said.

“Sports ministry is so much fun because you don’t necessarily have to speak the language; soccer is the language. The language barrier is much easier to beat when you have a soccer ball with you.”

While the clinics that these children attend can be an uplifting experience, everyday life in some of these places can be anything but.

Many of the areas that the team visits lack the everyday resources that American kids take for granted. Things such as clean drinking water, a bed of their own and the means for proper nutrition are not readily available to kids in some of the countries that Mahobian has visited.

“I look at these people and see so much potential: the people I meet have joy, love and so many talents on and off the soccer field,” Mahobian said. “But nobody tells them that they believe in them. I try to communicate that anything is possible through Christ and encourage them to go after their dreams.”

Mahobian says she intends to travel with the Lady Eagles next summer when the plan is to visit Cape Town in South Africa, where the native South Africans will be coming down from hosting the World Cup this summer.

She also recently accepted a teaching job at Valor Christian High School, where she will also beone of the school’s soccer coaches. The previous two school years, Mahobian worked with inner city kids in urban Denver as a literacy teacher.

“When I think about going on these trips and working with kids in the classroom, I always think about the sermon Jesus gives his disciples in Luke 12 when he says, ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be required,'” Mahobian said. “I think I have been blessed with a passion and an enthusiasm for helping others, and if I just wasted it, I wouldn’t be listening to Jesus’ teachings.”

“The trips and the people I meet end up giving me just as much or maybe more joy in my own life. I go to these places to serve the people and teach about love, but the people and cultures I encounter also both serve me with love and teach me how to love better. I come back a better soccer player, teacher, and wife because of them.”

For more information on Nicole and the Lady Eagles, please click here.